The countdown begins. In exactly two weeks, Swedish-born Akiine Ngarambe will release her Neptune EP via Color Station. Stylized as “AKIINE”, this London-based musician will quickly become relevant on your musical radars, so tune in! In an exclusive interview with What The Sound, AKIINE gives you the low-down on what to expect on Neptune, among other cool personal details. Encompassing sounds that range from Sylvan Esso to Nao, filled with whimsical excitement and cosmic power, her joyous tone and dreamy melodies will put you in awe. Below, read into the musical world of AKIINE presented by WTS and be sure to check out her two most recent releases from the EP, “Brixton” and “Paranormal Activity”.
WTS: I heard "Paranormal Activity" and I just lost it. I thought, "This is so good! This is so cool!" It's really cool that The Fader premiered it. How'd you go about getting The Fader to premiere it?
AKIINE: I don't know because it was that my label in New York, I think, contacted them. I don't know how it happened, but it was their number one choice and they did it.
WTS: That's awesome. Color Station is your label, right?
WTS: Is that in UK and US? Or do you have …
No, I just have them. And it's kind of everywhere because, 100 percent, I think it's all online.
WTS: Cool. Were you signed with them when “Sunglassey” came out a couple of years ago?
No. My friend, Valerio, who's now my producer… We were like, "Oh, let's put this up on SoundCloud, but let's email it to music blogs before we do," so it was like we had our own premiere of the song.
Yeah, and everyone seemed to like it. And it went quite well from there.
WTS: Yeah, I was wondering about that. So Valerio, he does your production. Is he at your live performances as well doing beats?
Yeah, he plays- What's it called? "SPDS" I think it's called that. I just call it different things, but it's a small instrument with buttons, and then each button has a bit of each song, like a track, so he just sets them free.
WTS: And is it just you 2 when you perform live? Or are there…
No, then Stuart plays guitar, so there's 3 of us.
WTS: How'd you meet them? Both of those guys?
I have a friend who she moved to London and she was studying in Sweden, and then she said, "Oh, come and play! I'm doing this charity gig!" and I played. And then Valerio's band played, and I really liked them, and I was like, "Oh, we should do something together!" I sent him a Facebook message, but, if you're not friends, it can go to a spam box, so he never replied, and I was like, "Oh." I forgot about it. And then, I was going to move to London, and he saw the message just before that, then he added me as a friend. He was like, "Oh, you're in London! You should come and sing on a few tracks," and then I sang on one track, and then we started working together.
And then, yeah, Stuart's my boyfriend. He's a really good guitarist, so I was like, "Oh, do you want to play with me live?"
WTS: So are you from Sweden? What part are you from?
Yeah. It's called Märsta. It's close to the airport and like half an hour north of Stockholm.
WTS: How long have you been living in London?
3 and a half years? So I think my accent has changed a bit, because my sister, she lives in Atlanta, and our accents are really different now because we've been living in different places, but they used to be quite similar.
WTS: How did you decide to make the move?
I was bored, and I felt like I didn't know what to do anymore with my music. And then, my friend, who I met, we were volunteering at the jazz festival. She had been travelling in Asia, and then she came back and she was like, "Oh, let's meet! I'm going to move to London soon, so we have to meet before I go." And then, she was kind of joking like, "Oh, you should come too!" And I was like, "Yeah, maybe I should." And then we started planning our move together. It wasn't all really planned, but then it kind of became real.
WTS: So this new track that you just released, "Paranormal Activity," that's going to be a part of your upcoming EP, right?
WTS: Coming out October 30, so pretty soon. I'm just curious, so "Destiny," that song of yours, has a very R&B vibe to it, and "Paranormal Activity" has a really cool synth-driven and groovy, pop vibe. I'm wondering is there going to be a collection of those sounds on Neptune or is it going to be more towards the sound that we hear in "Paranormal Activity”?
There's going to be both. There’s 5 songs on it, and there's one kind of tropical-y tune, and then there's "Paranormal Activity" and "Destiny," and then there's another song on it that's quite spacey, not more like "Paranormal Activity," but kind of. It doesn't really have a chorus or anything, it's more like, "Oo!" Because my friend's going to do a video for it, then she was like, "What are you thinking when you hear that song?" and it just feels like if you imagined that you've just died and you're flying out into space, like, "Oo!" That's my kind of song. And then there's another song that's coming out soon, and it's kind of R&B I think, but dark, dark R&B.
WTS: There are a lot of really incredible artists coming specifically out of Sweden right now, especially with an indie, electronic-influence. Why do you think Sweden's producing so many right now? What's happening over there?
I don't know. I've read about it a lot, and a lot of people say that it's because of schools teaching music when you're a kid, so it might be that. I think a lot of people get to try and make music, I got to play the clarinet when I was 9 at school. Everyone just had to pick 1 out of 4 instruments.. I had good music teachers, and then my class teacher was into music, so she made us all dance and sing all the time. So that's why everyone gets to play a lot.
WTS: That's interesting. Is that how you got started with music? Is that your first experience?
I don't think I know how it began, but I know it seems like I started dancing when I was 3. I always liked recording things on the cassette player in the kitchen or making up songs or trying to write lyrics to demo songs on the keyboard, things like that. But, yeah, just singing all the time. And I was in the choir at school. There's always been things around me.
WTS: What's your songwriting process like? Does Valerio make a beat and then you try to work around it or vice versa? Or how does that...
Usually, I have an idea or something and I do it on my own, and then I do as much as I can, and then usually I tell them, "Oh, I have a song to send soon!" but I always want to finish it as much as I can so that the idea's there and it's quite clear. Then I send it to him, and he's really good with working with sounds and stuff. He has lots of equipment in his house, so I can be like, "Oh, I want this to be more spacey," and then he knows how to kind of touch it up and make it sound more finished.
WTS: We heard your tracks, and we thought- Is it Sylvan Esso?
Yeah. I've got friends who said I should listen to them.
WTS: Similar vibes. Same with Made In Heights. We thought you had a really similar sound to them. It is really cool, like a different take on it. Just sort of reminded us of them. And Nao, do you know Nao? She's a British female R&B vocalist.
Oh, I haven't heard of Nao or Made In Heights. I should listen to them.
WTS: Did you grow up listening to anyone in particular that helped form your sound? Or right now do you listen to anyone that you love?
Well, when I grew up, I feel like all technology was always quite new to us when it was old to everyone else. So I don't know why, but my dad, the first CD we had was Irish Hits 2, so I listened to that a lot because we didn't have anything else, or a radio, or MTV. But then, my first real idol was Britney Spears, and there was NSYNC. I didn't really listen to not mainstream people until later on. It used to always be just whoever was big, like Spice Girls or something.
And then, now, like today, when I was trying to make music, it didn't work because I had the new Justin Bieber song in my head and I couldn't get it out! So today, I'm just going to listen to lots of different music and just try to neutralize my brain. But yeah. I've just been listening to different things today. There's a band called Ménage à Trois.
I think they're from Australia, but I'm not sure. On my SoundCloud, it's called Ocean Records, they have lots of good mixtapes. It's quite chilled out.
WTS: Yeah. I listen to those guys too. I like that.
WTS: Are there any artists that you really dig that you don't think WTS' readers know about and should know about?
Ménage à Trois, and then my housemates have a band called Lupo, and Way Yes. But they're probably quite well known, it's just that I found them.
WTS: Are you going on tour to support this Neptune EP around England or Europe?
I don't know. There's a EP release gig on the 22nd, but that's here. Then there's a few London gigs, but I don't really know much more than that. There's probably going to be more gigs, but I don't know about them yet.
WTS: How does your experience as a musician in London compare how it was in Sweden?
Well, one thing, when I was here doing that gig, I just felt like everyone was really a bit more supportive. Maybe that's not true, maybe just because I got bored when I was in Sweden. It's a bit different, and there's gigs everywhere all the time, and people go to them. Yeah, it's like people are more- I don't want to say they're more into music, but I thought people make an effort and go to lots of gigs. Because London's so big, there's places to play everywhere.
WTS: Lastly. If you were to go to the US to play a show is there any particular city that you would want to perform in?
Yeah, San Francisco! And Brooklyn.